Is it really possible to retire at the age of 40?

Can you really save enough to retire at 40?, Peter asks (Picture: Thinkstock)

Can you really save enough to retire at 40?, Peter asks (Picture: Thinkstock) - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Although our choices have widened beyond comprehension over the past two decades, television is one area of everyday life where more most obviously fails to equate with better quality.

Peter Sharkey (Picture: Archant)

Peter Sharkey (Picture: Archant) - Credit: Archant

That's hardly surprising. With 24-hour schedules to fill, broadcasters have become adept at scraping the barrel, often hitting the jackpot when an ultra-cheap programme, ie one where almost all participants appear for peanuts, fires up the ratings.

I'm no television addict and long ago concluded that people who fail to rate The Sopranos as the medium's best-ever drama have probably never seen it, but I confess to being a sucker for the compellingly-titled programme that promises something a little different.

MORE: Understanding personal finance can actually make you richer

With this in mind, I settled down to watch Channel Four's How To Retire At 40 last week. The programme was notable for featuring one thirty-something couple who had adopted an innovative 5:2 'finance diet' in an impressive attempt to conclude their lives as wage slaves within the decade.

Unlike the intermittent fasting version of the diet, where you eat normally for five days a week and fast on the other two, however, when it came to finances the couple had flipped this approach on its head.

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They did not spend a penny for five days a week – no fancy coffee, expensive lunchtime sandwiches, Friday night drinks followed by a takeaway and a taxi home – but did allow themselves a number of weekend treats.

The pair reckoned their unusual but contemporary approach to personal finance meant they were saving £14,000 a year.

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We've grown used to reading surveys, which tend to appear at least once a year, reminding us that if we were to kick our expensive morning coffee habit we could afford a yacht.

This column is brought to you in association with Almary Green

This column is brought to you in association with Almary Green - Credit: Archant

One recent survey concluded that on average, workers will spend more than £88,000 during the course of their working lives buying lunch, tea, coffee and the occasional afternoon snack.

This cash could be used to pay off a £100,000 mortgage six years early, it said, assuming a working life of 47 years.

I'm a little wary of the methods used by some surveys because their lack of consistency tends to skew the results in favour of costs incurred by people working in London, but at least they, and programmes such as How To Retire At 40, make us appreciate that a regular savings habit need not be onerous.

Long before Santander took them over, the Abbey National Building Society attracted millions of new customers by persuading them to save little and often.

The society's famous 'Abbey habit' advertising jingle had folks flocking to their branches to enjoy the benefits of regular saving.

An Abbey National mortgage became the norm for millions (including for my wife and I) once they had saved a deposit for their first home.

If the society marked you down as a regular saver, there was no problem getting a mortgage, although I recall we had to save 25% of the cost of our first place (a tiny two-bedroomed flat) before the mortgage was released.

That cash was saved out of taxed income, so the process was difficult at times, but we sacrificed unnecessary items in order to achieve our goal.

And there's the rub. Whether it be your intention to retire at 40 (and the best of luck with that), put a deposit on a tiny two-bed flat, or to buy yourself a new car, having a goal is one of the five important elements to a successful saving regime.

It's agreed that firstly you should pay off your debts, especially those of the credit card variety. In the meantime, start small: saving £3.50 a day is £1,277 a year.

It's also a great idea to separate your savings: arrange to put them in an account which is awkward to access – if they're readily available, in the form of cash in your purse or wallet, you'll invariably spend them.

Finally, be disciplined.

Establish a standing order to take money from your current account and into a savings account.

After a while, you'll not notice it going and will be well on your way to early retirement.


£0 - Proposed cost of travel on Icelandic airline WOW. Chief executive Skúli Mogensen says costs will be waived if passengers post details of their journey on social media.

20 mins - Episodes of Dr Who with first female (Jodie Whittaker) in the role will be 20 minutes shorter thanks to the Doctor's ability to multitask.

£473m - Estimated annual amount paid by UK consumers in credit card and debit card charges. The charges are to be scrapped from January.

£150,000 - Salary paid by the BBC to stars such as Craig Revel Horwood and Darcey Bussell.

41 - Minutes (allegedly) to be shaved off the journey between London and Sheffield on HS2, though 16 homes, worth between £100,000 and £190,000, will have to be demolished to make way for the new track.

£900,000 - Basic salary for Dame Carolyn McCall, current head of Easyjet, who will take over as ITV's chief executive in January. The salary is £41,000 less than current chief Adam Crozier.

£325,000 - Price put on Scottish island of Little Ross this week. It comes with a 6-bed cottage, jetty, natural harbour and its own power supply.

10 years - According to the University of Exeter and Kings College, London, the brains of people who complete a daily crossword are a decade younger than their bodies by the time they reach 50.

200,000 - Estimated attendance at golf's Open championship, up by 27,000 from last year.

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